“She laughs without fear of the future.”

I haven’t posted in while. Life sort of gets in the way of my musing. I need to be elsewhere, than on my computer. But today, well, today I felt like sharing thoughts. I have been participating in a bible study on Proverbs. This past weekend, my husband joined me in listening to Fr. Josiah as he spoke about “the perfect wife.” I did not realize the title of the talk until we started it, and we both chuckled. But the talk itself was not just about a father’s instructions to his son on finding the perfect wife, but rather about the character traits we all need to strive for. It was a good talk and it seemed over so quickly.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31: 25

There are more ways than we think of demonstrating a good, moral character. We can look for all these attributes in others, or we can strive to have them ourselves, to mirror those things we wish others had. “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instruction with kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26) As we explored this chapter, which is the final chapter of Proverbs, we learned so very much about ourselves. And I was struck by some pretty amazing thoughts!

I have caused myself to rethink how I see other people, and the effect I allow them to have on my life. There are people who I have strived hard to be like. People whose opinions mattered to me. People I looked up to. And as I have studied these sayings about the perfect wife, I realize that many of these people are just play-acting roles they have assumed. They did not truly embody the character traits I thought they had. They were pretending, or “going through the motions” of being something or someone, but when I pondered many of them, thinking of them particularly in light of the character traits I strive to have, I realized they spoke of these traits, but did not own them.

Metanoia – the change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.

When someone says they have embraced their faith, there is an expected change. They alter how they view life, how they treat people, and how they live. Granted, some people will never fundamentally change, but a great deal about how they are and how they treat others undergoes a profound change. And sometimes, it does not. At all. They parade, they act, they pose. And, when you come up against someone like this, for me at least, I want to make them a huge sign that says, “WWJD” and flash it in their faces.
When our metanoia only shows itself at church, it is not a change of heart or soul. I attended a conference many years ago that was supposed to be a “charismatic” conference. I had a little exposure to charismatics throughout my life and I thought it would be fun to attend. It was visually pretty mind-boggling. I have never been one of those who outwardly expresses themselves in church with “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords” with shouts and raised arms. I am a quiet church attendee. I am pretty traditional in how I like my church services, which is why I think I have gravitated eastward for so many years. Anyway, at this conference, people were being prayed over and being “slain in the spirit.” (Overcome by spiritual emotion causing fainting and other reactions). When it came to me, three people stood around me (making a box with their bodies and I was very uncomfortable) and the fourth person stood in front and prayed over me, and then pushed me with the palm of his hand on my forehead, expecting me to faint. Instead, I yelled, “Ouch! Why did you hit me?” They all looked at me and said, “Next, please.” I felt like I had missed out on something amazing. I had no life-changing moment; no metanoia. In another instance, when I was at a pre-sanctified liturgy during Lent more than 10 years ago, as the priest passed over me, carrying the Body and Blood of our Lord, and as his vestments passed over me, I felt an electrical charge that went straight to my heart. Much later (as in months had passed) this same priest and I were chatting and he brought up that exact moment – because he had felt it, too. That was confirmation enough for me! God was present. And my heart melted. I have never forgotten that moment and it still brings me up short, that God would allow me to personally experience His presence in such a way. It changed me. And it brought me closer to God than anything I had experienced up until that point.

1 Timothy 11-16

“Command and teach these things.  Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

When we accept the faith that is in our life, either through early baptism and confirmation (as in the eastern and Orthodox churches) or we come to it later in life as a discovery (being “born again” in Protestant churches) we are called to be examples to those around us of Christian living. When we give poor example, we damage our own reputations, yes; but we damage the Church as a body and its members as a whole.

The profound thing I realized is that there are people around me who have shunned organized religion of pretty much every sort, but who are more Christian and Christ-like in so many way than those shouting it from the street corners (Matthew 6:5). And what I realized is that no one has told them they are living a Christian life; that they embody so many of the character traits we look for in the “perfect wife.” And how sad is that? They are dealing with people who purport to be Christians. I know that “we are not perfect, just forgiven,” but c’mon people! We are held to a higher standard! And there are those who somehow think less of themselves because they do not “go to church” in light of these church-goers (always comparing themselves to them) and yet have far better characters, are far more trustworthy, and who will defend your life to the end of theirs.

And so this weekend, I came to see people in light of what they do in relation to others, rather than who or what they say they are. And I was profoundly moved by people who don’t even realize how good they are; and conversely I was profoundly disappointed by some who insist on acting like they are such good Christians of character. And so, once again, my children are teaching me. I have commented in other posts about my son chastising me about judging how some people look, without even getting to know them. That was about 15 years ago. And I have profoundly changed and I know I am a better person for it. I just wish some people knew what great people they are and did not measure themselves in light of the words of others, who profess how good they are!

“..and they rejoiced with her.”

I have been struggling with anxiety recently. We stand on the cusp of some major changes in our lives, and I am one of those people whose brains somehow shift into overdrive the moment my head hits the pillow. And the night before last was the worst. I think I slept maybe 2 solid hours the entire time I was in bed. And I woke yesterday so exhausted. But the one thing that I did do a lot of was, I prayed.

I was told this saying above about not being able to sleep, many years ago. And I have tried to apply that. And so, during my wakefulness, I prayed like crazy for all the people who have been asking for prayers. And I even added some who I knew could use the extra help. A friend of mine, who had suffered a few years ago, told me that she could tell when people were praying for her, because she felt a sense of relief each time the praying would begin. I have always wanted to be that sensitive to the prayers of others, and oftentimes I do believe I can feel that sense of calm, in the midst of the craziness, and then I know people are praying.

My Lenten study has been amazingly right on the nose almost daily. It is like God wrote it just for me. The reading of the Psalms has, quite literally, changed my life. And using a Gratitude Journal has changed the way I look at things. The day before  my night of sleeplessness, our writing prompt had been, “A habit you need to break.” For me, it is SLOTH. Basically, laziness. And I completely addressed that, right away. But the other thing is to always balance that by what we are grateful for. I had a friend who was ill and that friendship came into question; that our friendship was pivotal in my life. I realized it is a friendship that my life would be empty without. We do not see one another often, but like I said in my earlier post, I realized she is one of my anchors in life. And I am forever grateful for her. And I loved being able to balance my need for correction with gratitude for an important person in my life.

And one of the techniques I applied while I was unable to sleep was that I vowed to hand everything over to God. Literally, my life. My family. My future. Our future. My worries. The outcomes. Because our directed journaling the next day was, “Prayer for patience,” I actually laughed when I read it. Timeliness. God is always waiting. Always. And as I could not sleep, I prayed the Jesus Prayer over and over again, giving my sleeplessness to Him, to work for His greater good. In among the many Jesus Prayers, I added a decade or two of the Rosary. As one Mother to another, I know the Theotokos can relate to worry. My situation in no way compares to Hers, but I know She waits to offer us Her comforts. I always think of the Passion of the Christ movie, where Mary lays on the ground, and She can feel her Son in the prisons below Her. My heart breaks every time, because I know that connection intimately. And so I sought the comfort of Mary, in my sleepless struggles.

And through that long night, I felt immeasurable comfort. I was actively assisting in bringing Christ to others, through my prayers. God needed my prayers and I happily offered them. The readings for that day in the Psalms also drew a chuckle from me, at their timeliness:

“I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, that I may sing of the Lord, “How good our God has been to me.”” (Psalm 13:6)

Keep me safe, O God; in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, you are my only God.'” (Psalm 16:1-2)

“I bless the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart exorts me. I keep the Lord always before me, with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.” (Psalm 16:7-9)

And for my Psalm journal, I found an amazing journaling sticker (yes, they make stickers for journaling) that says, “TODAY – Be an encourager” – and another that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” And in my gratitude journal I added stickers that say, “But first, God,” and “God bless this hot mess.” Ha-Ha!  It amazes me continually how all these disparate things just seamlessly come together to make my Lenten Journey this year so very fruitful.

“Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown His great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.” Luke 1:58

Even though I realized that Scripture was referring to the birth of St. John the Forerunner, I rejoiced in the fact that Our Lord has blessed me during this Lenten Journey. That this study has reignited a faith long dormant. And that re-confirming my dedication to doing the Will of God for my life, has strengthened me beyond anything in recent memory. This joy that Elizabeth experienced at the birth of John was shared by her family and friends. Her husband lost his speech because he did not fully believe what was told to him, but at the birth of his son, his speech returned and he praised God. I like to think that I lost my voice a little bit, too, along the way. But I have rediscovered it and my dedication to sharing what counts in my life with those of you who actually read this has returned. Throwing off the world in social media, in a way, helped me to focus on this blessing of faith, regenerated. Lent is such a gift to each of us, that we need to grab hold to it and wring it out for every blessing contained within it.

And one of the many miracles coming out of a sleepless night is the gift of the answering of prayers. The Lord is always, always there. And He is just waiting for us to acknowledge His presence in our lives, and the many promises He made that He is waiting to fulfill for every soul who approaches Him.

“FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,
THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT,
WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY
FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.” (Breviary, Eucharistic Prayer III)

Not all of us feel inclined to come to the Altar. And I get that; I do. I continue to pray for the many who decline to approach God, feeling they have no need of Him or his succor – His aid in times of distress and hardship. I know many who feel that to be a Christian of any stripe is to be weak. And I will continue to pray for them. Because I have been shown, without doubt, the strength of God in my life. I am so blessed.

May your Lent continue to bring you closer to Our Lord. Blessed Lent.

“…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

winterroad

Oh do we have snow! Not as much as they have been warning us about (although it’s not over, yet) but everything is white. You see the world in whites and grays in this winter wonderland. The light from the sun weaves its ambient presence among us and the world is much more quiet and serene. Even the local dump is pretty, covered in beautiful layers of snowy goodness! As we wander into the last days of this incredibly wild year, I have pondered what my next days will be filled with. I am not good with “resolutions” and even the word sounds so final. I rarely keep them. I intend to, which is the main thing, but my follow-through for an entire year is usually weak. And since I know that about myself, and am “of an age” where I can readily express that with no embarrassment, I do! Ha-Ha!

2017

I do wish everyone a blessed and happy New Year. I pray that 2017 is a year of profound peace and prosperity, in whatever ways mean that to you. For me, I am seeking a return to what I somehow laid aside. I am anxious for inner peace – moreover, an inner contentment. It has somehow escaped me and I spend many nights tossing and turning, many days exhausted from a lack of good sleep, and an overall feeling of impending doom. That is no way to go through life. I am working on my health and my supplements! I know I need more vitamin D! I am working on that. We had a very successful experience trying the Whole30 elimination diet and we did so for 49 days, until Thanksgiving. Since then, we have both seen our overall health tank. The old aches and pains are back, some new ones cropped up, and we have an overall feeling of just plain, well, “yuck.” So in 3 days we will back at this Whole30 experience. You can google it, if you are unaware of what it is, and you can also look back at some earlier posts, when I explained in more detail what we are up to.

This year, we met a lot of new people and I can honestly say, our lives are the better for it. Our perspectives have broadened, and we have found areas that we want to grow in. It is wonderful, too, to find a group of like-minded individuals. While many of them have younger families, we have found a group where we are among our peers. And we both love being with people our age and life experiences. It is fun. And so in the coming year, we hope to strengthen these relationships, make many of these people close friends, and grow and learn many new skills. Living where we do, we are deeply intrenched in the seasons of the earth. Right now, in deep winter, we are all hunkered down and only occasionally getting together. I cannot wait for spring and summer – more opportunities to mingle, lots of new things to experience, and more people to get to know. And, we get to try our hand at a better garden this year!

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One of the things I have learned this past year is that social media, while it can be a good thing, can suck you dry. It can pull you in, because perhaps you are lonely. It can take over your day. You can be so caught up in checking Facebook and emails, tweets and pins, that you forget to be present to those around you. You forget to live this life in the here and now. I do believe our computers aid us (I am typing this on my gorgeous, and purple, MacBook) but I also think that the ease with which they purport to make our lives, also complicates them. I can’t recall the last time I went days without checking things on either my computer or my phone. I deleted a bunch of apps off my phone the last few days. I decided it was just too much. Facebook Messenger was insane. Ugh. My phone beeps and tweets and sings to me all day long. Even when I turn off my notifications, something beeps at me. And I came to the realization that I sit far too long, looking at the activities of other people, and not having enough of my own. How silly is that?

So I am trying to keep a sort of “resolution,” in that I have deleted apps from both my phone and computer, and I am simplifying. I mean, for instance, I am down to 1 Angry Bird app. Period. And I am down to 1 solitaire game across all media platforms.  That is progress my friends! I am seriously thinking of deleting my aquarium app, as I have 6 tanks and if I don’t feed those darn fish…well, you know. (Gross). But seriously. I am 60 years old. And I play Angry Birds. What is up with that?? I feed make-believe fish in make-believe aquariums. I think I knew I was going off the rails when I started breeding sharks in amongst the angel fish. I mean, how sick is that?? And what am I NOT doing whilst feeding imaginary fish and  defeating imaginary pigs? I am not praying. I am not reading. I am not becoming a better me. Does Angry Birds help me get closer to God? Uhm, no. I think He is probably shaking His head at my silliness.

We are all called to be His children. We are all called to share the Word of God with those around us. We are all called to help our fellow man. Angry Birds does not do any of that. I spent an afternoon canning with some new friends this fall. In a very out-of-the-way place (where there was not even navigation in my car or phone reception, and yes, I got momentarily lost as I journeyed home) with some wonderful new people in my life. The conversation was great. We shared stories and we laughed. The skills acquired were really a re-introduction to canning, as I had not done it in years. But the skills shared, the wisdom in that cabin, has stayed with me. And I hunger for more of the same. These were some real people and I felt so welcome and so “at home.” We shared, with one another, the gist of who we are in the simple tasks of washing black currants, and boiling water, of making coffee, and slicing and blanching carrots. What a simple joy that afternoon was. And it profoundly struck me. That is what I want more of.

Do you know I have only been shopping in our one, large mall here 1 time? Guess what? I have no desire to go there. At all. I’ve never been a shopper, and I am really growing to hate crowds of people. But you know what I am anxious for? What I want to do? What I am excited for? Getting together to cook and  make some scrumptious recipes with some of my new friends. We’ve been teasing each other with recipes! I am looking forward to some shooting lessons. I desperately want to feel more confident in my basic skills in regards to being prepared for our next “snowmaggedon” or our new volcanic eruption, or the next big earthquake. Learning to freeze foods; learning to dehydrate foods. Canning, in all its glory. Planting a well-thought-out garden. These things excite me.

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As we age, our dreams change. I no longer foresee a house in a development, or master-planned community. I envision a place with space around it. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s home; it doesn’t have to please anyone else. But I would like it to to be simple, serene, and away from the “maddening crowd.” I dream of a log cabin, although I am aware of how much adjusting and upkeep they require. I don’t need my own lake or river, but it would be nice to have one close by so my dear husband can grab his fishing gear and walk down to the water, and relax while challenging the salmon. I would love to have space so he can hunt if he wants to, without having to drive miles upon miles to do it. And I want a space where others feel welcome and want to come and hang out. Even if it is simply for some card games and coffee. I would like my forever home. Because I am so very tired of moving. I want my roots in this land to go deep. I want a home where my grandkids will someday say, “Remember grandma and grandpa’s house in the woods where we got to fish and run around?” I want to make those memories with my grandchildren, and with my children, and my husband. I want inner serenity. I want peace and contentment. I certainly don’t want millions of dollars and all that it requires to take care of it. I want to be safe and comfortable, in a space where I can host others, and share some peace and laughter with them.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

And so for 2017, I wish for you the same. The peace the world cannot offer; the peace of Christ. I wish for all of us, to have fear leave us and for contentment to find us. I pray the world will calm down and we can each find this peace in our own little corner of it. For some, it will be an apartment in the middle of a vast city, driving to and from on complicated highways and byways. For others, it will be on farms and rural homes. Still others in suburban hideaways, where they can escape the madness of their commutes. But at least once a week, I pray we can all find our way to kneel before the One Who created us, to give thanks, to be humbled, and to enjoin with Him Who gave us life and breath, and hearts to love. “Our thoughts determine our lives” (Elder Thaddeus) is something I try to live by. If we all have thoughts of peace and we share them, peace will emanate from us and fill those around us. One way to find peace is to seek the quiet and serenity wherever, and whenever, we can. For me, I think I will slowly unplug from the rat race. I may still play a round or two of Angry Birds, but I am trying to rein that in, too. I know that waking early, spending some time reading the Word of God and having a chat with Him, starts my day off right. I also love to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and a little time with my husband before he is off to his day. These good habits that ground us are often hard to come by, and hard won. But they give us peace and prepare us as we enter into the work the Lord has given us for this day. And for me, I will take these “resolutions” and tackle each day, one at a time, as I resolve to find peace, contentment, and work on all these new things and new people in our lives. “…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

candles-church

God’s blessings on you and yours as we wade into this new year – 2017.

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This quote, by John Lubbock, spoke to me. We have had friends visiting from the “lower 48” this week and I know experiencing some pristine nature is never a waste of time. I have watched them visibly relax. I have seen the wonder on their faces and their joy burst forth when coming face-to-face with bears at the Wildlife Preserve, with watching the salmon jump as they climb to their spawning grounds at our Hatchery. I love sharing the blessing of where we live with people who do not get to experience it as often as we do. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I would not expect others to embrace where I live just because I do. I know it took me more than 40 years, once I first imagined this place, to actually live here. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). It is amazing to me how close to God you can feel, immersed in nature.

PalmerAK

I jokingly asked our visitors if they needed some time with asphalt and smog, with all this “nature overload.” And we chatted about how tired they are because of processing all that they are seeing, hearing, breathing, and tasting. It takes a lot out of you to travel to an environment that is so foreign to your daily routine. As we meandered along our coastline and mountains, we all remarked about how brave the early explorers were. We were imagining the native peoples making their home here, and the early explorers and then miners, making their way through these near-impenetrable mountains. There are places here that have never experienced the footfall of man. How remarkable that we live here, in among all the stupendous magnificence of a God who loves us.

Salmon ladder

Occasionally nature needs our help. In this state, we encourage natural activities and assist in raising the live birth numbers of many of our indigenous species. Most people who come here to sports fish would be sorely disappointed if nature was the only provider! Our Fish and Game Department is doing themselves proud with how they are helping our salmon spawn successfully.  There were approximately 6.5 million fish released into the waters of Alaska in 2016. Pretty impressive. We recently learned that an entire herd of Wood Bison, over 130 of them, were released successfully from our Wildlife Conservation Center. Wow! I love walking through our hatcheries, learning the stories of the many fish we have here in Alaska. At the Sealife Center in Seward, they work so hard to rehab the different animals back into the wild. In amongst all this nature, thriving here, you certainly feel humbled.

Aurora August 2016

One of the things that people always want to see is the Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights” when they visit us. In the summertime, that is pretty hard because it doesn’t really get dark enough. Last night we got notices through our news and weather sites that the Aurora possibility was a +6, which is high. We stayed up until 1:30am, and even got up again at 3:30am, but it was either too light or too cloudy where we are. The photo above was taken north of us last night. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). When you see the magnificence in the heavens, where the stars seem to dance, you certainly feel small, humbled, and in awe.

The experience of nature, up close and personal, away from the noise, smells, and interference of thousands of people, can ease your suffering and your pain. It makes your spiritual connection strengthen. I know for me, when I go to Church and can watch the snow dancing on the windows, and the candles are burning brightly, I can feel God. Learning to be still and seek His presence can be difficult in the midst of asphalt, smog, freeways, and social insanity, but it can be done. I found God in the middle of Southern California’s rush hour lifestyle. But I was constantly seeking my peace elsewhere. My prayer is that more and more can experience God in the stillness of His creation. It is truly magnificent, humbling, and breaks open those walls we place around ourselves when we live in a crazy, crowded world. Prayer seems to come naturally, in nature’s wonderland.

Be Still

“I just needed a time out…”

My aim, when I first started this blog, was sharing my “musings of a mom.” I had my first child almost 31 years ago, and our baby will be 18 soon. I have experienced many things as a mom. I have been filled with such an immense joy that I thought I would burst, and with such sorrow that I thought I would break. God intended us moms to be pretty strong, because bringing new life into this world and sharing in the gift of creation with our Divine Creator, is pretty amazing in and of itself. But then there is the whole raising of these children. That is another chapter. One that I do not think will be done until I draw my last breath, and at that point, God and my child will be on their own! Ha-Ha!

I have embarked on some new journeys recently, and through them I have walked away from some things and some people, and have begun new things, meeting new people. I don’t think that life is something we ever stop exploring unless we choose to, or we are dead. I have heard some amazing sayings and one of them recently was, “Stop being in love with your couch.” This could mean laziness in a physical sense, and that truly applies to me. But the context within which it was stated had to do with business and being a self-starter.

AncientPaths.

Sometimes we get stuck. We dig trenches of our own making. We get so deep into what we are doing, we cannot see out of our habits.  And while in those habitual trenches, we develop a “comfort zone.” It can be so debilitating we cannot function well too far from our zones, or outside of them. We freeze. We fall in love with our couches. However, there are ancient pathways, tested paths, that help us to find our way and keep us close to God.

THINK – PRAY – ACT

This is something that can be so hard to do, because we have lost contact with our own sense of the “go-getter,” that person we were when younger or more motivated. I often watch my 2-year-old granddaughter and long for her energy level, as well as her joy in life. She seems to just enjoy every day, moment to moment. She throws tantrums once in awhile (more often as she is growing up but is not quite where she can communicate what she is feeling. She then gets frustrated with life and just comes unglued – I can relate to that, as well!!) and I often wish I could behave with that abandon! However, being the mature adult (cough-cough) that I am, I am reduced to stomach acid that sometimes goes into overdrive, and having to realize that I am a child, too. A child of God. I need to run into the arms of my Lord like my granddaughter runs to her mom’s outstretched arms. And there I need to rest. I need to gather myself, pray, and then act.

I recall my kids having tantrums and we’d send them to their rooms, until they were better company (or could behave around others in a way that was acceptable to us). As they got used to that, quite often they’d run to their rooms on their own and then as I would check on them, I would hear, “I just needed a time out.” Wisdom from the mouths of babes. We all need a time out now and then! And when I think, then pray, then act – well, it turns out better than “re“-acting to my environment with my own “adult” tantrums.

Silence

As I have mused over events and memories of being a mom, I have learned a few things. One of the most profound is to keep silence in situations where speaking would result in turmoil. Keeping silence and your opinions to yourself often results in untenable situations becoming more tenable, and even forgotten, as time goes on. Teenagers, but often strong-willed and undisciplined children, will erupt and spew their newly acquired opinions, creating strife in a relatively short amount of time. Poorly disciplined kids are relatively hard to deal with, especially when they grow into poorly disciplined adults. And that is when the balm of silence can truly help a situation. When you throw all of that undisciplined humanity into a group’s gathering, it can be quite tense. It is at that point that I will retreat inward and think and pray…my action is my inaction…it is my non-contributory silence. And I recently had the opportunity for silence and the action of being silent and although my inner self was in turmoil, I did not contribute to the turmoil around me and I found great peace in that. It calmed me and provided a salve for my inner-self, my heart, my nous, my center where God resides. He reminded me of the many opportunities I have been given to contribute and that now, silence is often my best contribution to a situation and/or a person.

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I was staring at my bedroom today (this is just an image; not my own room) and I still love the craftsman-styled furniture we bought for ourselves. We finally got our own bedroom set after we had been married for about 15 years. Today, as I was dusting our dresser and holding items precious to me, I just started to bawl. I looked around, wondering who would be dusting this dresser that I love so much, in 30 years? Who would care about this flower bowl I got from my grandma and kept because I love the way the pink and purple colors are all swirled together? Who would be making this bed, and for whom, in 40 years? Because, I realized that my days are numbered here on earth. That we all truly die. And I do not think I will be dusting anything in 40 years, nor making beds, nor admiring my grandma’s ceramic flower bowl. Someday relatively soon my family and small group of friends, well, they will only have me as a distant memory. And that I will cease to be a part of their lives. And I am not ready for that, yet. Oh, I know it is coming. Getting closer by the day. And all of this musing about sharing and not sharing, being silent, and choosing ancient pathways brought me to this point of my weeping at my coming death. I pray I will be worthy of the nosebleed seats in heaven; that God will share His Mercy with me and I will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6). But that still means I will not be with those I love. And my circle has shrunk over the years. Boy oh boy, has it shrunk. And as I wept, I thought of those I would like to be with me, as I draw my last breath. The list is small. And I found comfort in that. Because as we go through this journey, those who truly matter are there for us, regardless of our weight, our success, our homes, our choices, our gray hairs…they love the inner me; the me Our Lord sees every time I seek Him in silence and in prayer – the child of God I am when I run to the One Who comforts as only our Creator can.

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Today I wept, and I kept my own counsel; I didn’t call a friend or my husband. But I also sought my Creator to center myself. As I mused on motherhood, I mused on the many choices I have made for my family. I truly feel I was led by Our Lord to make the choices I made. I know He watched over us and has each of us in His hands. And as others criticize the choices I made for my kids, make fun of the choices I am making for my family and my life now, I realize that Our Creator has got all of this. I place my trust in God, in my salvation with Him for my eternity, and I will enjoy the precious moments I have left with those I love. I will keep silence when it is better to do so. I will also continue to make choices based on my keeping my silence, but also with thinking, praying, and acting within the Will of God.

God words

Finding my Joy….

Sometimes you are traveling along a road, and you can see clearly ahead of you. You know exactly where you are going. You planned it and you had everything you needed. And then God hits you with a 2 x 4! He slams that doorway so fast, you are literally knocked down.

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And that is when He is telling you to seek your Joy elsewhere. And it can take your breath away. You had presumed and assumed so much about what was going to be. What your expectations were. What you had worked towards. What your heart told you that you were called to pursue. Except that God had to show you in a concrete way that your idea, your expectations, your dreams, were not His dreams for you.

The plans I have for you

And so it has become for me. I had an idea of what my future was, where my Joy was to be found. But God had other ideas for me. His plans are far greater and far above what I could even imagine for myself. And He is calling me to pull myself out of this place I was in, to place before me new avenues. New people. New places. Things to discover where I will be better fulfilled and find more, and consistent, Joy. And even though I really hate this trite saying, it does fit: “It’s time to think outside of the box.”  We all place ourselves in a comfortable box. We know the edges of our box. We know where the top will be, and we know where we began, or the bottom of our box. We are in our safety zone. But the Lord calls us to stretch. He wants us to become the best of our potential. And so I am in the process of throwing out my box and being free enough to see that I have so much more available to me; and so much more that I am capable of.

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And I appreciate that oftentimes we get so caught up in pushing forward, pushing ourselves into places we were not meant to be (because it fit into our idea of where we were headed) that we could not be our best self. We could not flourish. We could not find our true Joy, because we were not walking in the Will of God, but were exerting our will into this life. God granted us all free will and it is one of the hardest things to control. To subsume our Will to His Will for us. Subsume is a great word in itself. Knowing that something is being absorbed into something else wholly and perfectly. When we connect with the Will of God in such a way that we are in perfect concert. Somehow you know the decisions you are making are the right ones. He speaks in a whisper and we hear Him.

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And so my pathway has altered greatly. My days and weeks have been changed. My conversations have changed. The things I put into my mouth are changing. The things I use on my body and in my home are changing. The people I associate with are changing. But I am not despondent – I am excited. I am looking forward, in obedience to God’s purposes for me, and I am starting to enjoy this new adventure; this is a process and a journey. I am still learning, still growing and I am not looking back, missing what was or what I thought I was supposed to be doing, but solely moving forward, finding my Joy in new and unexpected places. I am blessed.

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“…more precious than gold.”

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Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. John 11:25-26

I am comfortable in my faith. I am not swayed this way or that way. I stand firmly in the promises from God. I am often asked if I know the bible. I usually laugh inside a little bit. My minor in college was Biblical Archeology. We did not study Scripture for memorizational purposes. We studied the Bible in order to verify archeological proofs of the existence of landmarks and relics which back up all the words contained in the Bible. And for me, even though I was undertaking this study at a secular university, I was still touched deeply by the proofs I was able see in front of me. But belief does not require us to touch proofs – faith!

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It is also the exact opposite – believing what is not there, not tangible. Our faith in the Word of God is an amazing thing. In the Eastern Churches, we stand in the Presence of God. When the Word is processed in, we sing and we stand. We elaborately decorate the Holy Book, containing the Word. We incense it; we hold it aloft; we kiss it; we venerate it. We believe God is just as Present in His Word as He is in the Eucharistic Presence. We also believe He is Present in His Church: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20.  So when we hear the Word proclaimed during our Liturgies, joined as a community, we believe God is Present. We cannot see Him, but we believe Him to be with us.

And one of the things I love about being a faithful Christian is sharing the many and varied ways God makes Himself known to His people. I know He shares His Truth with millions around the world – we just celebrate it a little differently. We believe in the inherent truths contained in the Bible that was established through the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. At this Council the basic Canon of Scripture was codified and the world had the Bible. We were given the Word as it remains (for the most part) today. And we have faith in things unseen.

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So much of what we argue about in our religious discussions are pretty much opinion, not doctrine or dogma. Why is that? Very few people actually study what they believe or why they believe it. They prefer the “cliff notes” and get the “gist” and go from there. I cannot even tell you how many times I am asked by those near and dear to me, for me to tell them a plot line or explain something to them because, shock of all shocks, I am a reader. I LOVE TO READ. Anyone who knows me knows that I am forever involved in some sort of reading schedule, immersed in a story or plot of some sort. And I am that way about learning anything. I dive in with both feet until my curiosity is satiated and my knowledge has grown. I own it. I don’t rely on others to spout it for me. I make my information my own; I take responsibility for what I am diving into.

In my previous posts, I mentioned the transitory and also superficial nature of modern relationships and the effects social media has had on them. This applies to our faith as well. Many people just sit in the pew. They are spoon-fed their religion. Their faith is pretty superficial because it relies solely on others to give it to them. They know, however, if you make subtle changes on Sunday. Ever walk into a place you go to regularly and just know something is off? Well, if you try and make subtle changes to Liturgy, watch out! Just because it’s always been done that way, it must be the “right way.” Heaven forbid someone who has studied and learned tries to offer their expertise and experience to help the liturgical experience be more authentic. That’s when those who seemingly have these superficial ideas about what you’re supposed to be doing go all out – protesting and complaining. At least they are involved – at that point. And let’s face it – no one likes their apple cart upset.

upset apple cart

Well, I love apple pie and I’d love to take all those upset apples and make a pie. Not this time. Those who choose to complain the loudest get the most notice. Ha-Ha. But as I started this post with quotes from the Bible about our faith, our faith is there for us to rely on. And I am grateful beyond words for my Spiritual Fathers (most of whom live very far away) who lovingly guide me, even when others are questioning my faith. Christ made us promises, too. And I believe His promises more than I believe the words of men (and/or women) whom I can no longer trust. My Spiritual Fathers, I trust. Their words to me, I trust. And late at night when I toss and turn and worry over these things, their words, along side the Word of Christ, give me peace and joy in my heart.

“…and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” 1Peter 3:17

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“… a tempest of doubting thoughts…”

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“Having within a tempest of doubting thoughts, and wanting to give my children to drink of eternal life, I weep. Thus, having remembered Thy most rich mercies, I sing to Thy Son with hope and with a contrite heart: Alleluia.” (From the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children; Kontakion 4)

The Akathist To the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, is probably my favorite form of prayer when I think of my sons, and now, my grandchildren, too (My daughters-in-law are prayed for as well, because I think of them as my children, too).  As parents, we are called to lead our children to a life of Christian prayer, service, and sacrifice. To put “other” before “self” and to enjoy the companionship of other believers, being a part of a community. To enjoy serving. To enjoy and celebrate a simple life; one that encompasses prayer to God and being a part of a church community. To enjoy praying with and celebrating within a community. And to push ourselves outside of that community “comfort zone” into serving our communities at large. The thought of having faith and being a part of organized religion often frightens people away. “I know what I believe; I don’t need some organized religion telling me what to believe and how to behave.”  That is such an American, democratic view of faith, also laid upon views about life in general. And I know it has caused umpteen disruptions of relationships, of churches, and of our Christian faith in particular. It is one of the reasons I am awakened in the night, being asked by God for renewed faith and renewed prayer.

An Akathist, for those of my friends who’ve never heard the term, is just another way of saying a Novena, or set of prayers (although it is not done like a Novena – over 9 days – but is more like a formal prayer used regularly).  This particular Akathist is concerned with raising our children, from a mother’s point of view. (I also love the Akathist to Our Guardian Angels). Within this Akathist, Kontakion 8 says, “Where will my children, wandering in the greatly perilous and stormy valley of the world, receive joy and consolation if not in Thee, O Most Pure One? Travel with them and teach them the true path, that they may cry to God: Alleluia.” This sentiment is on the mind of all parents, when their children venture more and more away from their homes and establish their own homes. (Ikon 9) “Deliver my children from association with falsely-theorizing orators, who speak lies about Thine all-powerful intercession, and look upon me, faithfully singing…” These prayers keep coming to my mind in all hours of the night. And I pray for my children, and my grandchildren. This world can be a fast, ugly, sinful place. We can easily lose sight of what really matters. (Ikos 10) “Surround my children with indestructible walls, O Heavenly Queen, that under Thy blessed protection, they may accomplish a multitude of good deeds, and that with them, I may cry to Thee…”

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I am at the point of seeing my nest empty. It makes me sigh with relief in so many ways, but it also makes me sad. I’m definitely tired. Raising three sons so far apart is like having 3 singletons, as they say. And as I near 60, I am looking forward to married life without kids underfoot, as we have never had that. But I love teens (as weird as that may sound) and I am going to miss our last son being here, most especially because he is the last (and also a great joy in my life). And I have reflected on what we have done, as parents, to set our sons on the path to God. In this great book by Peter Kreeft (Everything You Wanted to Know About Heaven but Were Afraid to Ask – available on Amazon), he talks about standing at the Throne of God. When God asks us what we have done with the souls He entrusted to us, I hope to be able to answer, “Lord, I set them on the path to You.” Because, truly, as a parent, that is all I can do. I cannot shove faith down the throat of my sons. They have to discover what it is they believe, as men, and how they choose to go about their lives. Will they share God with their kids? Perhaps not. And that is something I have to live with, which is also why I diligently pray for not just my children, but my grandchildren, too. I don’t think we are ever done being a parent. I just had a chat with my dad, reminding him that his dad (my grandpa) told him at 50 years of age, “Well, son, I guess you’re old enough for me to not have to worry about you anymore.” But I don’t think Grandpa ever did stop worrying. I don’t think I ever will, either. My dad, at almost 90, still worries about us!

Near the end of the Akathist is a prayer, “A Prayerful Sighing of Parents for Their Children” and I try to pray this each week for my children and grandchildren.

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“LORD Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother, hearken unto me, Thine unworthy servant (name), O Lord, govern in mercy my children, Thy servants (names). Have mercy on them and save them, for Thy name’s sake.O Lord, forgive them all their transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, that they may be perfected before Thee. O Lord, set them on the true path of Thy commandments and enlighten their minds with the Light of Christ unto salvation of their souls and the healing of their bodies.
Bless them, O Lord, at home, at school, in their journeys and in every place of Thy dominion. Preserve and shelter them, O Lord, from flying bullets, arrows, the sword, poison and fire, from mortal wounds and sudden death. Guard them, O Lord, from all visible and invisible enemies, and from all danger, evil and misfortune.
Heal them O Lord, from all sickness, deliver them from every impurity, and lighten their spiritual sufferings. Grant them, O Lord, the grace of Thy Holy Spirit and a long life; grant them health and chastity in all piety and love, and to live in accord with all their neighbors, near and far.
Multiply and strengthen them, O Lord, in mental ability and bodily strength, given to them by Thee. Bless them to lead a pious life and, if it is pleasing to Thee, grant them married life and honorable childbearing.
For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, give me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant, a parental blessing for my children and Thy servants, both in this present time, morning, noon and night, and also in Thine eternal, almighty and all-powerful Kingdom.
Amen.

O God, Maker of all creation, Thou hast made me worthy to be the mother of a family, and through Thy goodness hast bestowed children upon me; and so I dare to say: these children are Thine, for Thou hast given them being, hast infused them with an immortal soul, and hast raised them to life through baptism.
And in accordance with Thy will Thou has adopted them and received them into the bosom of Thy Church. Send down to me Thy gracious help in raising my children, for the glory of Thy name. Bestow on me patience and strength to do Thy will.
Teach me to plant in their hearts the root of true wisdom-the fear of the Lord-that all their lives they may tremble at Thy words. Open to them the understanding of Thy law. Until the end of their days let them act with the sense that Thou art everywhere present.
Plant in their hearts loathing for every transgression, that they may be pure in their signs. O Righteous Judge, who punishes children for the sins, but sprinkle them with the dew of Thy grace.
O Heavenly Father, order the fate of my children according to Thy blessings, do not deprive them in this life of their daily bread, send down to them in due time all that is necessary for the acquisition of blessings in eternity.
Be merciful to them, when they sin before Thee; look not upon the sins of their youth and ignorance; chastise them and have mercy on them, but turn not Thy face away from them. Turn not Thy face from the in the day of their tribulation, that they may not fall into temptations beyond their strength.
Cover them with Thy mercy, that Thine Angel may walk with them and preserve them. Abandon not my children, O Lord, and give them that which is profitable for salvation.
Amen.”

I shared this in its entirety because it is weighing heavily on my heart. I feel some mighty changes coming and I am praying I am prepared for them. I strengthen my heart and soul through praying, but sometimes we have a lesson we need to learn. I am ready. I know God has my best interests at heart, and I trust completely in Him. I also place my children within the mantle of the Blessed Theotokos, Mother of God, and continually ask her intercession on behalf of my children and grandchildren. I know this world is changing rapidly. People are becoming less and less concerned with their spiritual well-being and more concerned with the house they live in, the purse they carry, and what kind of car they drive. It makes me so sad, and frightened. My grandmother once told me that she was sorry for the world she left to me. She was born in 1903. She said that because of living through the depression, and a couple of horrible world wars, parents made the mistake of not wanting their children to suffer as they had, so they made life too easy for them. She told me that she had sheltered my dad in some ways, by always being on his side and praising him too much. She often thought he had an inordinate view of himself. And I believe that trend has continued. Kids nowadays get a trophy just for signing up to play a sport – not for actually trying or winning. Everyone is special and a hero. It is a disordered view of life and has created a generation of entitled young adults and teens. And it is getting worse every day.

A friend and I had a chat about recently about prepping.  You know, bunkers, laying up stores, ammo, water, a shelter. We reminisced about drills in school when we were young over the Cold War and Russia “dropping the bomb on us.” Now it seems more likely to come from a  much closer source and it is rather frightening. But how do we live our lives, knowing some of this? Her husband wants to go very prepper with  shelter, ammo, etc. whereas she prefers the approach of the movie, “The War Room.” I believe in an intelligent, happy medium. But I am not stupid, either. I know God has things in store for me, whether I am prepared or not. God is not done with His world, yet. To that end, I think it behooves us all to be smart. Learn something about living “off the grid” (Hey, earthquakes are real – they are something facing lots of us regularly; tornadoes are real; terrorism is real; our economy tanking is a very real possibility) and we all need to know how to take care of ourselves. One of the scariest things happened to me years ago when we took school kids on a tour of a dairy farm, “Where does the ice cream come out?” “Euwww…cows poop?” “That’s not milk; those cows are peeing out of their bellies.” “Yes, I know where milk comes from; it comes from the grocery store.” Although it might seem funny, are we prepared, as city dwellers, to take care of ourselves independent of the local market? Do we know where to get drinkable water in an emergency? Do we keep supplies in our garage? Car? Basements? Can we kill food for our families? Do we keep the Bible and family prayer ropes and icons where we can get to them in an emergency? Are we constantly storming heaven with our prayers?

(Ikos 9) “Raise my children to reject the deceitful teachings of the teachers of unbelief; raise my children to not accept the spirit of the sons of the adversary; raise my children to run from the world and the delusions of the world; raise my children to turn away from evil and to do good; raise my children to love their enemies and to pray for them; raise my children to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven and make them heirs of eternal blessings.” And the following Kontakion 10, “Desiring to save the world, Thy Son came from heaven to call, not the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. For the sake of this, pray to Thy Son that having been saved through Thee, my children may call to God: Alleluia.”

And so I pray. I pray unceasingly (Ikos 5 – Having seen my diligent supplication rising like incense to Thy glory, turn not Thy face away from my children, though they turn away from Thee, but all the more, hear the cry of my lips, singing to Thee…”). No prayers are ever wasted; no time spent seeking the counsel of God is ever wasted. And I know of no other use of my time to be as wisely spent.  In all honesty, seek God in all things, but especially as an intercessor for those you love. Our Lord made us parents because He trusted us to care for these souls. We need to redouble our efforts, even when our children are grown, have spouses, and children of their own.

To God be the glory. He is Born. Glorify Him.

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“We give thanks to You, invisible King..”

 

Food Thanksgiving

We give thanks to You, invisible King. By Your infinite power You created all things and by Your great mercy You brought everything from nothing into being. Master, look down from heaven upon those who have bowed their heads before You; they have bowed not before flesh and blood but before You the awesome God. Therefore, Master, guide the course of our life for our benefit according to the need of each of us. Sail with those who sail; travel with those who travel; and heal the sick, Physician of our souls and bodies. By the grace, mercy, and love for us of Your only begotten Son, with whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

This week is hectic. It’s Thanksgiving here in the USA. So many ways to celebrate; so many ways to give Thanks. Each time we attend Divine Liturgy, we continually beseech God for mercy, and we constantly give thanks, “to You, invisible King.” This holiday season is one where tensions fly with family members and friends, alike. Everyone has a plan in their head of what the “Holidays” are supposed to be. For whatever reason, they ALWAYS fall short. Why is that? I remember a conversation between two siblings, wherein they were recalling incidents in their youth. One of them remarked, “Were we even raised in the same family?” It was because their memories were vastly different of the same events. And I know that is what happens each year. We have fond recollections from our youth, but they are quite often not what truly occurred. We laugh and laugh as our boys retell certain instances in their lives, because to the mind of a child, it happened a particular way. But, we, who experienced it as adults, have a far different recollection.

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Hosting the holidays has been stressing me out. It’s because I have a very tiny house and there will be a lot of grown-ups trying to cram into it. I do mean a tiny house, with a one-butt kitchen. (If you have one, you know what I mean). There are other reasons, too. Like trying to live up the expectations of a family feast for my kids, grandkids, and extended family members. We also have many, many subjects that will naturally be taboo at our table. (A varied belief system, political system, and even agnostic/atheistic tendancies). There will be football! Ha-Ha! But even that can be heated (we all like different teams). The food is coming in from a variety of people, so all I have to worry about is the turkey (they don’t stress me out – just a big chicken), stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. Should be simple. We will have far more food than we can eat but hopefully everyone can taste something they like. My kids have already said that since they are now adults, I can’t make them eat what they don’t want to eat. So if all they eat is stuffing, gravy, rolls, and pie, washing it all down with a beer, I need to deal with it. Ha-Ha.  Well, okay then.

I am missing the days of attending Divine Liturgy and feeding the homeless, as we did in previous years. Our current parish is hosting a meal after the Divine Liturgy and I will miss it this year; perhaps next year we can hop from place to place, enjoying the company of a variety of family and friends. Perhaps sharing our previous experiences in helping the less fortunate will be something I can share around the table, maybe even inspiring an openness to giving to others. Who knows, maybe next year our family (extended as it is) will help to feed the homeless? One can always hope. One particularly happy Thanksgiving was shared with friends in Washington State a few years ago. My god daughter flew up for the weekend and we went to a friend’s house. They had invited a lot of disparate individuals and their table conversation was incredible. We had such a wonderful time. It was nothing like we had experienced in the past and to this day, it is one of my favorite holiday memories.

Hand held table

Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as I like to call it, is a peculiar holiday to America – and I like the idea of it. But with all the political correctness going on, we don’t really focus on the Pilgrims being grateful for a harvest helped by their interaction with the native peoples, and with them sharing their bounty. We instead are focusing on our own small families (in perspective) and on what time the stores are having their “Black Friday” shopping hours! People are boycotting lists of stores who are opening on Thanksgiving itself, and many who are already set up for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my second favorite holiday. For most of my life, it was my favorite holiday (I have been converted to Pascha. I adore the whole environment of Lent and Easter, especially learning all the new traditions here). In recent years, it seems like more and more that the marketing world leads us from Labor Day in September, right through to Thanksgiving and Christmas – all at once. The ads and the deals; retailers trying to get your money. It is taking away from the “thankfulness” of the season. I wish we could return to simpler, quieter, and slower days and years. We just seem to be rushing through all our days lately. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and I notice it more. And I truly wish we could get over this attachment to all the “stuff” we need to buy. Remember the old saying, “You can’t take it with you?” Seems so appropriate. We should stop and be content, be grateful for what we do have.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.…” (1Tim 7:6-8)

My prayer for my family and friends is a grateful heart and spirit. Silence, peace, and loving kindness to everyone. Being sated by what we already have and being able to recognize our wealth – in things, yes, but in our family, friends, faith, country. Enjoying those around us. Feeling the blessings God has laid before us in our lives. God is good and He knows what is best for us. Hosting Turkey Day is good for me. It lets me work on my “Martha” and learn to be more “Mary.” God is working in me, even in the week of “Thanksgiving,” as I am learning to redefine my essence of “family” and being grateful for those who darken my doorstep and gladden my table.

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From a wonderful site, “(In)courage ~ Home for the Hearts of Women” and an article entitled, ” A More Mary, Less Martha Thanksgiving”  by Dawn Camp, came the following WONDERFUL advice:

If you’re an anxious holiday host, I hope these thoughts help you, too:

Don’t experiment with new cooking methods or recipes on crucial dishes unless you have a backup plan. Delegate, delegate, delegate: ask other guests to bring bread, sides, or desserts. More Mary, less Martha: spend more time enjoying your guests and less time cleaning; use paper plates! Let your guests help you set the table and get the food ready to serve; they’re thankful you’ve opened your home and want to assist you. Enjoy the people you’re with; you probably don’t see enough of them. Thanksgiving is about being thankful; make it the focus of your holiday.”

I plan to take her advice to heart. I am about to sojourn to the store with my youngest son. I plan to get paper plates and lots of napkins, even plastic silverware and cups. I want this to be an easy Thanksgiving; a joyful and thankful day. And I hope by simplifying things, we can enjoy one another more (and I will even help myself destress a little bit) and truly be in the mindset to give Thanks.


HappyThanksgiving

Technology, Yoga Pants, and God

Blogging has become something of a chore of late. WordPress (who I blog through) is changing how you blog, and my computer is not playing nice. It is old and although it doesn’t seem to me that it’s so old that I need to replace it, it’s so old that I need to replace it. I have a MacBook and I love it. But its operating system is so ancient, I cannot upgrade. My keyboard is starting to stick and more often than not, spaces are not where they should be, or keystrokes are flat out missing.  Some keys have no letters on them any longer; others fly off when I type. So, I get frustrated. I had this amazing post all ready to go last week and each time I saved it, it deleted it. So frustrated. I am trying again, using the new format. Another new factoid for you – did you know that double spacing between sentences is no longer required? The typesetting abilities of computers space each letter, according to its need, so we no longer have to leave big spaces between sentences. If you do, your typing will look all off-kilter. I often have to go back and re-space things.  Another frustration! Ha-Ha!

So here I am, musing over many things today. Let’s just say, I have little, annoying “peas in my mattress.” For me, when something keeps popping into my head, it means I have to deal with it or I don’t get restful sleep or good days of accomplishments. One thing for me is the whole area of education, Common Core, standardized testing. Ugh. We opted out of testing this year. It took some courage, but we decided it was not in the best interest of our family. So we did not play. In addition to that, I discovered that our homeschool program requires participation in statewide, national standardized testing (aka Common Core) and will not compromise (as in allowing other tests or not testing at all). So now I am feverishly looking for schooling alternatives for our son. He only has two years left!!! And here I was, thinking we could cruise through the next two years! Unfortunately, because dollars yell louder than parental rights, Common Core is becoming required in all districts who take federal funding (and all programs who taking funding, homeschool or brick-and-mortar schools). Add to that the ACT/SAT are now CC aligned, and recently, even the GED became CC aligned. You can’t get away from it. But I am certainly going to try. It infuriated me, when I learned the details of CC and the annual testing. What the government wants to do with our personal data (I am not fooling myself; I know there really isn’t much personal privacy any more) makes me so angry, I am just not going to play their game as long as I can. Today I have been researching independent programs that do not take funding and do not test, and are not CC curriculum, either. The list is not that long. How sad. Moving to the “Last Frontier” is life saving in the sense that there are a lot of independent thinkers here. I was able to connect up with a few and will be attending a statewide conference this next weekend. Vendors will be there, so I can look at actual curriculum and decide what we are going to do.  Constitutional attorneys will be speaking. Legislation will be discussed. Good opportunity to learn about our options. Check that off my “pea in the mattress” list.

I finally filed my taxes on Saturday. Yes, I was avoiding it. I learned a valuable lesson – again. I need to trust more. I need to pray more. I need to realize the sky is not falling. It was a piece of cake. I sat there after e-filing my return and just sighed. We are even getting a small refund. Yay! Better than owing! Another check on my list.

As some of you know, we started working out and watching what we eat. We are overhauling our lives. We joined a health club and my husband even engaged a personal trainer for me, for just 1/2 hour a week. It does help. The other help is that we are doing this with our son and his wife, too. My husband, our married son, and our teenage son all meet at 5:00 AM, five days a week, Monday – Friday, and workout together. It’s funny, because there is not a lot of chatting going on, but being together just makes it better. My husband loves watching our sons interact and he is enjoying the “guy time” with his sons. My daughter-in-law and I work out in the afternoons together. Our health club offers free childcare, but she leaves the kids with my son when he gets home from work. They get time with Daddy each afternoon, and my DIL and I get girl time. Once again, not too much chatter going on, but we’re together and I love it. I miss her when we go separately due to scheduling conflicts (not much conflict at 5:00 AM!!).  Along with working out has come some realizations for me.

When you are not your best self, you can fall into habits that are not promoting a good life for you. Somehow, over the past 30 years, I became a couch potato. I am not sure how it happened, but it did. I’ve never been overly athletic, but I could hike and camp and fish. Now, taking a long walk hurts. It was one of the motivating factors to lose weight and get in shape. (Along with wanting to be there for my grandchildren). There is just so much to do outside here, that I wanted to be able to do it all and not be hindered by my lack of physical shape. I also realized that when someone is overweight, we don’t really see ourselves. I look down and think, “This looks good. I look okay today.” And then I see a photo and realize that I did not look great. I was fooling myself. When I look in a full length mirror, I see the truth of how I have let myself go. I am reminded of the Scripture passage from Corinthians, “We see darkly as in a mirror.”  Well, I actually looked and what I saw surprised me. I did not honestly realize what a large person I had become, because I don’t feel that way inside. I am the same as when I wore a size 8 and weighed 115 pounds. But that is not my reality. My trainer brought this to my forefront of thinking, having me work out in a mirrored weight room. You can’t get away from yourself. It was not on purpose for him; it is natural because most weight rooms are designed that way. I don’t think he even realized it was an issue for me. He also asked me why I did not wear work out clothes. I told him I could not find any my size. He told me to look harder. I have been working out in sweats. Let me tell you, working out being overweight creates enough sweat without adding to it by wearing “sweat pants.” I don’t need any extra help sweating. I wanted to find better shoes for both my son and myself, and so I went shopping with my daughter-in-law, my son, towing our adorable grandchildren with us. I had a sale coupon sent to me by my favorite deal app, “RetailMeNot” and so we headed out to Sports Authority (who had also sent me a coupon). I found shoes! Yay!  But, I also found work out gear specifically for heavy people. Imagine that! I had been looking at my local retailers and online, but honestly did not think Sports Authority would have work out clothes for me. I bought a pair of work out pants, or Yoga Pants, as they are called. I was nervous, but excited.

I got home and tried on my new shoes (which are neon green and blue – Go Seahawks!) and my Yoga pants, which are black. My teenager laughed at me when he saw my new outfit. I guess I shocked him, as I usually dress very conservatively and am mostly, “covered up.” I cried. And then we hugged. And then I went and sat down and prayed about it. Should I wear these Yoga pants in public? Euww… would I gross people out?Could I do this and be okay? And I realized a bunch of things about myself. God loves me. He loves me fat, skinny, sick, or healthy. He loves me as a sinner or in a state of grace. He flat out loves me. Regardless. No strings. No attachments. He loves me. He certainly doesn’t care if I wear sweats or Yoga pants; He is happy I am taking care of myself. But I don’t really love myself. I am disappointed in me and now that I really see me, I am sort of embarrassed. My sloth and gluttony are there for everyone to see. And wearing Yoga pants is truly no big deal. Everyone around me has been seeing me as I am for years – I’m the one who is just catching up. And because I realized I am joining the game pretty late, it spurred me on to keep at it. We’ve been taking the weekends off from working out and I can honestly say I miss it. And trust me, that is quite something for me to say. I showed up for my session with my trainer in my Yoga pants and shoes. I also wore my hair in a tight bun, exposing my white hair – ha-ha! But he greeted me warmly and we worked out for 45 minutes. Two ladies came by to ask me where I got my shoes (how funny is that? More Seahawks fans than you think up here!) and I was not embarrassed walking around the gym, mirrors and all. I am there. I am sweating this out, but I am present. And I am proud of myself for finally allowing myself to really look in a mirror. God taught me something about humility and unconditional love. All these years of being overweight, I still made friends; I was always welcomed into women’s groups and homeschooling groups. I stayed married to my best friend (who tells me all the time how beautiful I am. I love that man so much). And my Lord and My God loves me, even on my worst days or ugliest moments.

God never stops keeping us company; He patiently waits for us. He loves my frustrated pecking on this darn computer, and whispers thoughts to me to actually share with others. He walks with me as I deal with governmental over-reach and decisions for our youngest son and his future. He is there as we struggle through homeschooling and being a family. He encourages me to meet my debts and walks with me as I try to offer to Caesar what is Caesar’s (taxes). And God wants me to live a full, and long, life. So He is walking with me at the weight room and on the elliptical. He is in my daughter-in-law’s smiles and her high-fives when I get past my newest goal. He is in my husband as he texts me happy faces as I am working out. He is in our teenager as he scrounges for goodies in the cupboards and only finds healthy foods to eat, and eats it without grumbling. He is in my oldest son, hugging me and telling me how proud he is of me finally taking my health into my own hands. He is with me in the affirmations from our son who lives out of state. He is with me in my brother, calling out of the blue to encourage me. And He is with me in all the friends who stand with me and pray for me, and with me, for success in these areas and so many others. I am so blessed.

There is just one more thing that is bugging me today. When we are resurrected with Christ, we get our best selves, right? So if this getting into shape thing kills me, maybe the effort will get me bonus points and I’ll resurrect as my 20-something self? I am tongue-in-cheek kidding, I hope you know! But think about it. What is our best self? Is it when we are kneeling in prayer, covered in grace by Our Lord? Is it as a 20-year old, who thinks they have that “tiger by the tail”? Is it when we cross that finish line in our first marathon in our late 20s? Is it when we show up to work out, bravely wearing work out gear? Is it when we help our brothers, friends, and especially, our enemies? Is it when we work for the glory and money and fame? Or is it when we feed the poor or visit the shut in? Is it when we share our successes and try to help others? I’ve been ruminating on this over and over again. We are called by God to always strive to be our best selves. But when will we know we’ve accomplished our best self? Is it one of those moments where we reminisce about the “good old days?” I have memories of especially close moments to God, when I have felt Him touching me. Can we peak and then slide down again? (Since we are human, I automatically think, yes, we can slide down again). And every so often, I am glimpsing what I can become and what I can be, for God. Not for me, but for God. Will He tell me when I have reached that moment of Theosis, or being “one with God”?

My body is God’s temple and it needs an overhaul and deep cleaning. Great Lent is over and we are in the light of the gift of Easter. How am I honoring that gift? His patience with me? I plan to pray; I plan to keep working out to become healthier. I plan to remind myself often that God stands with me; my guardian angel stands with me; all the saints who have gone before me, they also stand with me. My husband, children, and friends – we stand together in faith. We are all working out our journey to God and together, all of us, we are the Church. We hold each other up and in prayer and love. And together, we can conquer all of this, in the name of Christ, Who gave His life for us.

He is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!